Submit your big and wonderful ideas by October 26

We know that mathematics touches every other field of science funded by the NSF. I hope that the next set of “big ideas”—that help guide NSF funding priorities—reflect that. We have an opportunity and, arguably, a responsibility to make this happen.

It would be terrific if mathematical scientists contributed to the open call, the “Ideas Machine 2026” described below. I encourage mathematical scientists to join together with others, both in math and from other fields, to submit ideas.

The Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences (MPS) Advisory Committee met on August 14-15, 2018. The presentations from the meeting, including a presentation by the MPS liaison Lin He on the Ideas Machine 2026 activity, can be found at . Suggestions of Blue Ribbon Panelists for the Ideas Machine 2026 activity can be sent directly to Dr. He( (please copy your suggestion to

In her monthly message, NSF Director France Córdova describes the call for the new ideas and instead of trying to re-write her words, I provide hers:

“Inspired by the momentum and impact of the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, we have been considering what kinds of initiatives could be launched today to set the stage for breakthrough discoveries and innovations in 2026 and beyond. Why 2026? It’s the 250th anniversary of our nation’s birth, an event–we think–to be widely celebrated with momentous discoveries.

Our external stakeholders are critical to our planning process for 2026. To gather input from researchers, the public and other interested groups, the NSF recently launched the NSF 2026 Idea Machine competition. Participants–those who do not work for the NSF–can earn prizes and receive public recognition by suggesting the pressing research questions that will require answers in the coming decade. In other words, the public has the opportunity to formulate the next set of Big Ideas for future investment. This is an opportunity to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science and engineering (S&E). It’s an invitation to contribute to the NSF’s mission to support basic research that drives the economy, enhances its security and helps sustain U.S. global leadership in S&E. Entries will be accepted through Oct. 26, 2018. The NSF plans to announce the winners in August 2019.

Please visit the Idea Machine website for additional information about eligibility, rules, judging and submission instructions. We encourage the public, including high school classrooms, to submit entries. Help us spread the word about the competition. By enlarging the pool of ideas, we hope to uncover new sparks that will ignite future areas of discovery. Could one of the next 10 Big Ideas be on your laptop?”



About Karen Saxe

Since January 1, 2017, Karen Saxe is Director of the Washington Office of the AMS which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who impact science funding. Before joining the AMS, Karen was DeWitt Wallace Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over many years she has contributed time to the AMS, MAA, and AWM, including service as vice president of the MAA and in policy and advocacy work with all three. She was the 2013-2014 AMS-AAAS Science & Technology Policy Congressional Fellow, working for Senator Al Franken on education issues, with focus on higher education and STEM education. In Minnesota she has served on the Citizens Redistricting Commission following the 2010 census and serves on the Common Cause Minnesota Redistricting Leadership Circle. She has three children and, when not at work especially enjoys being with them and reading, hiking, skiing, and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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